Is Volunteering Jewish?

While the majority of young Jewish adults volunteer, few see community service as an extension of their Jewish values. Most Jews ages 18 to 35 said that they shy away from volunteering with Jewish organizations because they view them as parochial and only serving the needs of the Jewish community.

And, further evidence of the distancing of young Jews when it comes to Israel, only 1 percent of respondents said that Israel was the primary focus of their volunteer work.

These were the key findings of a groundbreaking study — the first of its kind to study the attitudes and behaviors of young Jewish adults when it comes to volunteering. “Volunteering + Values: A Repair the World Report on Jewish Young Adults” was commissioned by Repair the World, a national organization that aims to make service a defining element of Jewish life, and conducted jointly by the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University and Gerstein Agne Strategic Communications.

“This is the first time that the Jewish community has baseline data about what the current attitudes and behaviors [of young Jews] look like,” Jon Rosenberg, CEO of Repair the World, told The Jewish Week. “You have to know where you’re starting from in order to measure change over time.”

If the findings are any indication, there’s a lot of work to be done

While most Jewish young adults volunteer, the activity is sporadic, with only one-third of the nearly 1,000 respondents engaging in service at least once a month. Less than a quarter of those surveyed had participated in an intensive service program lasting between one week and three months, such as an alternative spring break or immersive summer experience. In a typical week, the majority of young Jews said that they do not volunteer.

“It’s not just a frequency issue,” says Rosenberg. “We need to increase the effectiveness of volunteer commitments and help connect service to Jewish identity frameworks.”

Only 18 percent of Jewish millennials surveyed said that they prefer to volunteer with Jewish organizations or synagogues rather than other nonprofits. The vast majority — nearly 80 percent — said that it didn’t matter to them whether the organization they volunteered with was Jewish or non-Jewish. And only a small minority of young Jews cited Israel as the primary focus of their volunteer work.

“At this point, we have young Jews who neither have 1948 nor 1967 as conscious memory,” says Jonathan Sarna, a professor of American Jewish History at Brandeis University, referring to the year of Israel’s founding and the year of the Six-Day War. “In 1948, Jews had nowhere to go and were murdered in the Holocaust; those alive in 1967 remember the fear that the Jews would be wiped out.”

For Ari Teman, the founder of JCorps, which mobilizes nearly 5,000 young Jews each year to volunteer in cities across the globe, it’s not a lack of interest in volunteering in Israel but rather ignorance on the part of young people regarding the significant needs that exist there. “People are unaware of the shocking poverty that is prolific in Israel,” he says.

When asked why they did not volunteer with Jewish organization, nearly a quarter of respondents said that they were not familiar with volunteer opportunities available through the Jewish community. Others thought that the Jewish organizations did not address the causes they are most passionate about, chief among them helping the needy, health care and medical research, and education and literacy.

“The advice we are trying to take to heart here is for organizations to take a hard look at their mission and look at the interests and aspirations of this population and find the synthesis points,” says Rosenberg. “Young Jews are interested in service that is local and where there are low barriers to entry, such as education, poverty and the environment. We would never advise an organization to contort its mission to meet the perceived needs of particular groups of constituents, but rather look for ways in the messaging, programming and work that they do to synthesize the interests and attitudes of this population with the important mission the organization is performing.”

Many respondents were turned off by Jewish organizations that they perceived as being too particularistic and only serving the needs of the Jewish community. “We are now really moving in a new course that is more universalistic and less religious, and this is true generally in American life,” says Sarna.

Steven Bayme, the director of the Contemporary Jewish Life Department of the American Jewish Committee, says that “the concept of Jewish peoplehood has been under serious pressure.”

“Some people find the language [of Jewish peoplehood] to be off-putting — tribalism at best, racism at worse,” he says, leaving young Jews wondering why they should care more about Jews than about earthquake victims in Haiti.

And many young Jews exhibit an inherent distrust of established Jewish organizations. “Most young people don’t want to have anything to do with a legacy Jewish organization, which they view as irrelevant, ineffective, and wasteful,” Teman says.

Certain factors, such as having parents who volunteer regularly, were seen as encouraging more regular volunteer activity among Jewish millennials. Those with greater religious involvement were the most likely to engage in volunteering, do so regularly and participate under Jewish auspices. The level of religious involvement was calculated based upon whether the respondent regularly participated in a Shabbat meal or activity, attended a religious service and participated in a Jewish text study. “It’s not just [Shabbat] candle lighting,” said Fern Chertok, associate research scientist at the Cohen Center, who co-authored this study.

“Current religious involvement was a better predictor than denomination” of one’s likelihood to volunteer and do so regularly, noted Chertok. More than 70 percent of Orthodox respondents, 33 percent of Conservative, 23 percent of Reform and 7 percent of “Just Jewish” respondents scored highly on religious involvement. However, even those who scored highly on Jewish religious involvement tend to volunteer for non-Jewish causes, according to the findings.

“Most Jewish young adults do not volunteer for Jewish causes or under Jewish auspices; they’re volunteering at soup kitchens or for disaster relief; they’re mentoring, tutoring inner-city kids and building playgrounds,” she says.

The study also found that young Jewish women are more likely to volunteer than Jewish men, a trend that exists outside of the Jewish world, as well. Jewish men who do volunteer, however, do so as frequently as their female counterparts.

“This is not just a programming challenge, but also a messaging challenge,” says Rosenberg. “Who are the male role models who can be held up as American Jews making huge difference in service that they do?” Rosenberg recommends that the Jewish community begin to celebrate men and women who are not just leaders in the Jewish communal service sphere, but within the secular world, as well.

Men like City Year co-founder Michael Brown; Seth Goldman, the founder of Honest Tea, and Jeff Swartz, the CEO of Timberland. “These are American Jews who have started major service organizations or companies with significant commitment to the triple bottom line … and are in the position to speak about how they see service as a Jewish act,” he says.

That last point — viewing service as stemming from one’s Jewish identity or commitment to tikkun olam — is not something that comes natural to most young Jews.

“Jewish young adults subscribe to values of compassion and social justice,” says Chertok. “They don’t see them as Jewish values; they see them as universal values.”

According to the report, only 27 percent of respondents considered their volunteer activities to be based on Jewish values, and only 10 percent strongly agreed with that statement.

“We came at this question a whole bunch of different ways: social justice, tikkun olam, chesed or acts of loving kindness, mitzvot or religious obligation, Jewish communal ambassador — and none resonated as positively as a motivator for social justice as ‘ambassador for social justice,’” a more universalistic motivation, Rosenberg says.

For those who view service as a gateway for young Jews to greater involvement in Jewish communal life, these findings pose a serious problem.

“Young Jews are not claiming their heritage,” Chertok says. “These are Jewish acts. They’re not just Jewish acts. But they are yours as a Jew; they are part of your Jewish heritage. Young Jews are not sure that it is, and they don’t necessarily want to be particularistic about.”

That was the bad news. The good news, Rosenberg says, is that the one Jewish framework that had significant positive response was that “as a people who have suffered persecution and discrimination in our long history, Jews have an obligation to help those in need.” “That is a kind of Jewish-universalistic framework,” he says. “It comes from Jewish underpinnings and an understanding of Jewish history.”

One of the more surprising findings was that children of intermarriage are more likely than are the children of two Jewish parents to volunteer. “We spent some time thinking about why that might be,” says Chertok. “It could be that having a non-Jewish parent and non-Jewish family members leads you to see that your needs and those of people from very different groups are not so different,” she says. “As a result, your sense of obligation is more expansive.”

Another possibility is that intermarried parents who want to encourage religious and moral development may see volunteering as something that is easy to agree on and to encourage their kids to do, she says. “It’s a nonreligious avenue to encourage passion about moral responsibility. Helping others — that’s in every religion.”

For the same reasons, children of intermarriage are less likely to have strong Jewish perspective on volunteering.

Political ideology also has a role to play.

Those who describe themselves as “conservative” or “moderate” are more apt to see volunteering as a Jewish act than those who use labels like “progressive” or “liberal.”

More liberal folks may not see [volunteering] exclusively as a Jewish act, Chertok says. “They don’t like the particularistic piece of it.”

 

Weekly Torah: Parshat Korach 5771

This post is part of a weekly series of Torah commentaries presented by the American Jewish World Service. It was contributed by Jimmy Tabler.

“…and we argued passionately but always rested assured that our arguments were indeed ‘for the sake of heaven.’”

These words, used to close the graduation ceremony for my cohort from Brandeis University’s Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program, struck me as especially thought provoking. The quote references a passage in Pirkei Avot, the Ethics of the Ancestors, which reads: “Any dispute for the sake of heaven will have enduring value, but any dispute not for the sake of heaven will not have enduring value.” ((Pirkei Avot 5:17.))
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Study: Young Jews volunteer, but don’t connect it to Judaism

SAN FRANCISCO (JTA) — Most young Jews do some kind of volunteer service, but few do it through Jewish agencies or connect it to Jewish values.

Poverty, the environment, education and illiteracy are the areas that draw most young Jewish volunteers, with Israel-related work at the bottom of the list.

These are among the findings of a new study on Jewish young adult volunteerism commissioned by Repair the World, a national organization that promotes service as a defining element of Jewish life and learning.

“This is an idealistic, civically engaged population, and there are a lot of things to be done to deepen their involvement and connect it to Jewish values and the Jewish community,” said Jon Rosenberg, CEO of Repair the World.

The study, which surveyed some 2,000 Jews aged 18 to 35, could provide guidance to Jewish organizations seeking ways to involve young Jews in Jewish volunteer service, and for those that run service projects outside the Jewish community but wish to strengthen awareness of the work’s Jewish elements.

Respondents to the study, titled “Volunteering + Values: A Repair the World Report on Jewish Young Adults,” were drawn from a list of more than 300,000 applicants to the Birthright Israel program and a national online research panel. Forty-five percent of those contacted responded.

The study, conducted by Brandeis University’s Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies and Gerstein/Agne Strategic Communications, found a very high level of volunteerism among its demographic. About 70 percent said they have volunteered in some capacity during the past year; 31 percent said they volunteer every few months; and 29 percent volunteer at least once a month, with 10 percent engaging in volunteer work weekly or more often. More than one-fifth have taken part in an intensive service project of one to 12 weeks, such as an alternative college break project.

Those who defined themselves as Orthodox had the highest volunteer rate (86 percent), with 77 percent of Reform, 66 percent of Conservative and 63 percent of those identifying as “Just Jewish” reporting some level of volunteer activity.

About 22 percent said they had volunteered through a Jewish organization, with 56 percent of the Orthodox respondents saying they did so.

The study showed that young Jewish volunteers are motivated by universalist values; “making a difference in people’s lives” was cited as the most important motivating factor.

About 78 percent of respondents said it did not matter whether the organization for which they volunteer is Jewish or non-Jewish, while 27 percent said their volunteer work was related to Jewish values.

Rosenberg opined that many young Jews do not volunteer through Jewish organizations because they don’t always know about the opportunities, and also because of the misperception that Jewish groups serve narrowly parochial interests.

Fern Chertok of the Cohen Center, the lead researcher on the study, said getting more young Jews to see the connection between their volunteer work and Jewish values is important, particularly for those who are not religiously observant.

“It allows them to see the work as a Jewish act,” she said.

The study showed a high correlation between one’s level of Jewish education and future volunteer work, as well as how clearly one views his or her service as being in line with Jewish values.

“The more service learning is incorporated into Jewish education, the more that connection will be made,” Rosenberg said.

Jonathan Woocher, chief ideas officer of the Jewish Education Service of North America, said that “There are too many people who come away from their Jewish education with the sense that ‘doing Jewish’ is about doing particular rituals in particular places, and if these are not attractive to them, they may not see a Jewish connection to their volunteer work.”

Ruth Messinger, president of the American Jewish World Service, which runs projects in the Third World in which participants also learn about the Jewish values underlying their work, said Jews are interested in Jewish service learning, but the community needs to provide more opportunities. Jewish organizations, she noted, don’t ask for volunteers often enough.

The study provided material that Jewish organizations could use to develop more volunteer opportunities that correspond to the actual interests of younger Jews.

While just 1 percent of survey respondents reported doing Israel-related volunteer work, 9 percent said they would like to perform such work. And while 13 percent already volunteer in the field of education and literacy, mainly tutoring or mentoring, 37 percent said they would be interested in such service.

“If you can interest more young Jews who want to volunteer with quality programs in the Jewish community,” Messinger told JTA, “they’ll get a deeper sense of their Jewish identity and will feel further invested in their Jewish community.”

Study on Jewish Young Adults Finds Service Not Related to Jewish Identity

Jewish young adults overwhelmingly demonstrate an abiding commitment to volunteerism, with a particular interest in efforts to eradicate poverty and illiteracy and preserve the environment. At the same time, their service tends to be infrequent and motivated by a desire to make a difference in their local communities. And although their commitment to volunteerism increases with their degree of religious involvement, most do not connect their volunteering to their Jewish identity nor do they consider Israel to be a major focus of their service endeavors.

These are the major findings of the first-ever comprehensive study of contemporary Jewish young adults and their attitudes and behaviors towards community service. The study – Volunteering + Values: A Repair the World Report on Jewish Young Adults – was commissioned by Repair the World and was conducted as a collaborative effort between the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University and Gerstein | Agne Strategic Communications.

The survey examined a diverse sample of young Jewish adults between the ages of 18 and 35, drawn from the Taglit-Birthright Israel applicant pool of more than 300,000 individuals and the Knowledge Networks online research panel. The Taglit pool is the largest extant list of American Jewish young adults and includes program participants and non-participants from virtually the entire spectrum of Jewish backgrounds and denominational identities. The Knowledge Networks panel is a representative sample of the U.S. population using probability-based sampling techniques.

Jon Rosenberg, CEO of Repair the World, explained that, until now, little was known about the full extent of the sample group’s service commitment. That was the goal of this study, “to develop a portrait of what motivates Jewish young adults to volunteer, the varieties of service in which they participate, and how they construe the connections of their involvement in volunteering to Jewish values and identity.”

Of significant interest to our readers:

Young Jewish adults do not know about volunteer opportunities in the Jewish community.
A substantial number of respondents, 23%, indicated that their lack of familiarity with volunteer opportunities available through the Jewish community was a major reason why they did not volunteer with Jewish organizations. There is also the perception among this cohort that Jewish organizations do not address the causes that most resonate with them, and that the focus of Jewish organizations is too parochial and narrow, serving only the needs of the Jewish community.

Other key findings of the study are:

  • The majority of contemporary Jewish young adults engage in volunteer work, with volunteer rates ranging from 63% to 86% depending on denomination/identity. Over three-quarters, 78%, also engage in some form of civic activity, such as participating in the political process, publicly expressing their opinions, or financially supporting causes. Motivation tends to be rooted in a desire to make a difference in the lives of others and working on issues that have personal meaning with the volunteer.
  • Most volunteering is an infrequent and episodic activity. Almost one-third of respondents have made volunteering an integral part of their lives and engage in a service activity at least once a month. But, only 21% have participated, at some point in their lives, in an intensive program of one to 12 weeks, such as an alternative college spring break (“Alternative Break”) or immersive summer experience. More than 50% of respondents said that in a typical week they don’t volunteer.
  • Much of the volunteer work is local, as cited by nearly 80% of respondents, and focuses on efforts to ameliorate disparities in economic resources and educational opportunity. Indeed, as it relates to the focus of respondents’ primary volunteer work, the three most cited are material assistance to the needy, health care/medical research, and education/literacy. Conversely, only 1% of respondents cited Israel/Middle East Peace as the primary focus of their volunteer work.
  • The most commonly cited volunteer activities included teaching and mentoring, as well as collecting, sorting and distributing goods such as food and clothing, event planning, and providing manual labor for building construction and revitalization or repairs.
  • Gender is a significant predictor of volunteerism, with 78% of females, compared to 63% of males, volunteering within the past 12 months.
  • Religious involvement also influences volunteer habits. Jewish young adults with the highest levels of Jewish religious involvement, including but not restricted to Orthodox young adults, are the most likely to engage in volunteering, to do so regularly, and to volunteer under Jewish auspices.
  • Volunteering is the result of social learning that originates in the home and is reinforced by peers. Social networks, such as family and friends, play a prominent role in volunteer recruitment, as cited by nearly 25% of respondents. Parental involvement also tends to be a motivating factor; Jewish young adults who recalled their parents engaged in community service were themselves more likely to be regular volunteers.
  • Only a small portion of Jewish young adults, 10%, indicated that their primary volunteer commitment was organized by Jewish organizations. Moreover, only 18% said that they prefer to volunteer with Jewish organizations or synagogues over other non-profit organizations. And the vast majority, 78%, said it doesn’t matter if the organization with which they are engaged in service is Jewish or non-Jewish.
  • Universal values rather than Jewish-based values and identity drive volunteerism. For many young Jewish adults, volunteering is an activity partitioned off from their Jewish identity in much the same way that their Jewish identity is separate from many aspects of their current lives. Overall, only 27% of respondents agreed that they consider their volunteer actions to be based on Jewish values and only 10% strongly endorsed this statement.

“This survey provides important guidance for effectively engaging Jewish young adults in more sustained and effective modes of volunteering,” Rosenberg explained. “It also provides a baseline for change within the Jewish service community. Our challenge – as an organization and as the community at-large – is to bridge the gap between service and Jewish identity, and help young Jewish adults see their engagement through the prism of Jewish tradition, values, and identity.”

Poll: Among young Jews, activism driven more by universal values than religion

(CNN) – The fervent instinct for social action that energized Jewish-Americans when they fought for workers’ rights and civil rights, rallied for the creation of a Jewish state, and battled all sorts of bigotry throughout the 20th century still percolates.

But the fire is burning more sporadically, is not necessarily connected to Judaism, and it doesn’t “significantly embrace” Israel, according to a poll released Thursday by Repair the World, a group that promotes volunteering among Jews.

The survey is a snapshot of preferences and habits of young Jewish adult volunteers. And many will be surprised by its findings, which shows that those volunteers tend to be motivated by universal rather than Jewish values.

Only 27% say their volunteering is be based on Jewish values, the survey found. And 78% say it doesn’t matter whether they volunteer with a Jewish or a non-Jewish organization.

Most “do not participate in a volunteer activity under Jewish auspices,” with just 18% reporting a preference for giving time to Jewish organizations or synagogues over other non-profits.

A new generation of American Jews are compelled by issues in their own backyard – like poverty and illiteracy – rather than the faraway flashpoint of Israel, the survey found.

Nine percent are animated by Israel and Middle East peace, while 36% are stimulated by material assistance to the needy, 30% to education and literacy and 29% to the environment.

Young Jewish adults “are primarily drawn to service through universal values rather than Jewish-based values or identity,” the polling analysis found. Only “a very small portion of Jewish young adults volunteer as a means to represent the Jewish community to the larger society,” the analysis said.

Young Jewish volunteers are frustrated by a perceived lack of satisfying volunteer opportunities in the Jewish world, the survey found.

“Much of the volunteer work of Jewish young adults is comprised of local efforts to ameliorate disparities in economic resources and educational opportunity and often entails activities such as collecting, sorting, and distributing goods,” the polling analysis said.

The survey was produced to help shape strategies to generate interest among young Jews in volunteering, an activity that should become a “normative Jewish rite of passage,” says Jon Rosenberg, chief executive officer of the New York-based Repair the World.

This snapshot of the volunteer behavior and thinking of young Jewish adults – “Volunteering + Values: A Repair the World Report on Jewish Young” – is based on the responses of 951 Jewish young adults between the ages of 18 and 35.

It was conducted as a collaborative effort with the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University and Gerstein Agne Strategic Communications.

Most of the sample is drawn from the applicant pool of Taglit-Birthright Israel, the group that sponsors free trips to Israel for young Jews.

The study says it’s likely that Orthodox respondents, non-college graduates, and children of intermarried parents are under-represented. At the same time, Repair the World’s poll analysis says that the sample is diverse and “in many ways resembles known characteristics of the U.S. Jewish population.”

The picture drawn by the survey is of a busy community trying to juggle its schooling and work life with volunteering.

Many of these respondents can only be politically and civically involved in a tangential way because of time and economic constraints, the survey found. As people focus on getting their degrees and developing their careers, they can only devote so much time to volunteer work.

The majority of Jewish young adults “participate in some form of volunteer work but many do so only sporadically,” the poll findings say.

“Only 45% report civic behaviors that require an active effort, such as participating in demonstrations or attending a government meeting.”

Volunteerism tends to run in the family. Young Jewish adults who volunteer are most likely to have participated in high school volunteering and lived in a household where their parents volunteered, the poll showed.

“Women and those who come from homes with one non-Jewish parent are also more likely to volunteer, although not more likely to become regular volunteers,” the study said.

Israel and the Middle East and issues involving conflict resolution generate some but not as much inspiration for Jewish-Americans seeking volunteer opportunities.

The issue with that has the largest focus of primary volunteer work is “material assistance to the needy” at 16%. Service to the Jewish community comes in fifth at 8% and Israel/Middle East peace stands at 1% in this category.

“I was very surprised where Israel ranked,” Rosenberg said. “That’s an area where a lot of work can be done.”

But, it said, they do not know what opportunities exist and “of greater concern, they do not perceive Jewish volunteer options as addressing their most deeply held concerns.”

Rosenberg said he was also surprised by the survey’s finding that young Jews do not think there are Jewish volunteer options that speak to their deepest concerns.

Rosenberg said, the poll “charts a path” to help deal with what is an “idealistic” and engaged” population.

“Although there is certainly an important role for Jewish organizations to play, and it is critical for them to do a better job of contacting Jewish young adults and connecting them to service, it is also imperative to understand that participation through Jewish organizations is unlikely to form the conduit toward volunteering for most,” the poll said.

The survey called for a number of strategies to “more effectively engage Jewish young adults in service.”

They include starting early to build the “habit of volunteering,” expanding “volunteer options that relate to core concerns,” such as helping the poor, and working with non-Jewish organizations.

One significant strategy is framing the act of volunteering as a Jewish act, according to Repair the World, whose name is based on the Hebrew phrase tikkun olam, or repairing the world, a concept in Judaism referring to social action and community service.

Ironically, many of the people who enthusiastically volunteer but see their inspiration as universal might not realize that their interest in public service passed down from their parents and passed along by their friends could stem from the Jewish values that their parents and grandparents imbibed.

“With limited Jewish background and few current connections to religious life, most contemporary Jewish young adults are simply unaware of the deep roots of social justice and helping in Jewish tradition and text,” the poll analysis says.

“Even when they know that these values exist, Jewish young adults who identify as non-Orthodox or are not religiously involved may be uncomfortable taking on the mantle of a Jewish perspective,” the analysis says.

Video: Hillel Students Serve in Russia

This past May, a group of 170 Hillel students and their families volunteered to help clean up Jewish cemeteries across Russia – in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Ekaterinburg, and Khabarov. Together they restored headstones, swept up leaves and debris and painted fences. It was a meaningful act of service, particularly considering that many of the cemeteries across the former Soviet Union – both Jewish and not – are poorly maintained.

Check out the video of their day, made by one of the student participants:

See more on eJewishPhilanthropy and Hillel’s website.

Volunteering + Values: A Repair the World Report on Jewish Young Adults

Repair the World is pleased to present the first-ever comprehensive study of contemporary Jewish young adults and their attitudes and behaviors towards community service. Entitled “Volunteering +Values: A Repair the World Report of Jewish Young Adults,” the study was commissioned by Repair the World and conducted as a collaborative effort between the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University and Gerstein-Agne Strategic Communications. Prior to this study, little was known about the full extent of Jewish young adults’ service commitments as national surveys of volunteering either did not include information about the religious identity of respondents or contained too small a sample of Jewish young adults to permit meaningful analysis.
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Go to Hazon’s Food Conference this Summer – with Pursue

Pursue is teaming up with Hazon to offer partial scholarships to the Hazon Food Conference, this August 18-21.

The scholarships, which are designed for participants “interested in developing their leadership and networks in food justice work and activism,” cover up to 100% of registration fees (room and board not included). Participants will attend the full conference, which includes a built-out food justice and food policy track this year, and be a part of Pursue’s growing food justice cohort.

Recipients of the food justice scholarship are required to attend a pre-conference orientation call, actively participate in the conference’s food justice track, contribute a post to the Pursue blog, attend a debrief conference call, and bring back the ideas and energy from the conference to their home communities.

The deadline to apply is June 27. Read the full details here, and click here to apply.

Find out more about Hazon’s Food Conference in the video below:

Monday Link Roundup

Happy Monday and day after Father’s Day. Hopefully you spent the day relaxing with family and friends. Now, to get your week started off right, here’s your weekly dose of inspiring links from around the web.

  • The Huffington Post published a touching essay by actress Marlee Matlin about her “father’s chutzpah,” and how his cancer diagnosis a few years ago has inspired her to speak out.
  • Zeek magazine published a thought-provoking article questioning “do we still need Jewish feminism?”
  • JTA published an obituary and tribute to Yelena Bonner, a human rights activist who fought on the front lines for Soviet rights.
  • Jewschool included a post on “Chew on This” – a new food justice series co-sponsored by Pursue, Hazon, Uri L’Tzedek and other organizations, that kicked off last week. Missed the first event? Check out this interview with Nancy Romer of the Brooklyn Food Coalition on Pursue’s blog.
  • j.weekly, on a related note, published a profile on Oran Hesterman, author of the new book on food politics, Fair Food.